It may only have been a couple of establishing shots, but when America’s great documentarian gives you the nod, baby, that’s legit. This brief brush with fame came during the PBS Moyers on America special Is God Green?, when "Courtesy of The Great Warming" flashed across the screen — twice! I dropped my fork and called the folks.
The scenes were during an interview with evangelical Christian leader Rev. Richard Cizik, who broke from the conservative mainstream to start preaching that Christians could be environmentalists and still be true to their faith — truer, in fact, since Cizik considers the degradation of the planet akin to sin.
In The Great Warming, coming out in early November, Cizik talks about the political muscle his group (63% of whom say they’re concerned about global warming) can bring to bear on Republicans, but in its short segment, the religious scenes also look at human health, social justice, and the planet the next generation stands to inherit.
The film was never intended to be a faith voice or resource, but it turned out that its secular partners — e.g., New American Dream and Friends of the Earth — agreed with the religious groups that there is a moral as well as an ecological and sociopolitical imperative to stop the damage we’re causing, and everybody shook hands.
This is a fine line for a film to walk these days, though. The press The Great Warming has received in the U.S. has been almost exclusively on the 8 out of 82 minutes that discuss religion, and on how faith groups have adopted the film in their (extremely effective) awareness campaigns — the issue’s even got attention overseas. The media focus appears to have scared off at least one sponsor, and it’ll be interesting to watch the reaction of fellow liberals uncomfortable with organized religion’s beliefs or power. Can we actually get past where we came from and focus on where we want to go?
After struggling for months to get a toehold in the media mainstream (2006 is not a great year to release a global warming movie on a shoestring), it was pretty gratifying to see even a walk-through in a Bill Moyers show. They’re always good, but I may have to buy my own copy of this one.